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Clearwater Council OKs art project at rec center
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CLEARWATER – City leaders voted to move forward with a public art installation, despite not all council members approving of its aesthetic.

On July 20, Clearwater City Council members approved a $55,000 installation consisting of vibrantly colored window patterns, created by artist Guy Kemper, which will be displayed in the glass windows of the main entry and fitness center window wall at the main entrance and central atrium of the new Morningside Recreation Center.

The cost of the installation is already included within the recreation center construction budget, according to city parks director Kevin Dunbar.

While the project construction team, the public art and design board, the parks and recreation department and the Morningside Neighborhood Home Owners Association approved the design and project scope, city leaders were not completely on board with the end result when it came before the council on July 17.

Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos questioned the council’s policy on public art installations in facilities where the public might not be able to visibly see it from the street, such as Fire Station No. 45 on Court Street, which houses public art on the interior of the facility.

Despite those questions, Cretekos said he was still in favor of moving forward with the project.

“Council, when I brought it up at our work session on Monday about this public art process, I didn’t mean for us to stop it,” Cretekos said. “Because in my opinion, we’re ready to move forward with this one.

“In the future, I think maybe we ought to tweak it a little bit, to make sure we don’t get this delay process at this time.”

The mayor went on, however, to say that he didn’t want the council to become bogged down by personal preferences, especially when it comes to art, which is subjective.

“We’re all going to feel differently about it, and that’s the beauty of art,” he said. “But I do think it’s important that the value we get is good for the citizens, good for the community and adds to the public art throughout the community.”

Council members Bob Cundiff and Doreen Caudell said the art had already been approved by the art and design board and both felt it was appropriate to move forward.

Councilman Bill Jonson said he was not in favor of the translucent nature of the art.

“I’m not criticizing the choice of the art,” Jonson said. “I’m trying to understand the placement of the art in the entrance area and in comparison with other public parks buildings and public municipal buildings.”

Jonson made a motion to table the item, but found little support from his colleagues. In a subsequent motion, the board voted unanimously to approve the item.

Last month, council members approved a construction bid from Caladesi Construction Co. of Largo for the construction of the Morningside Recreation Center on Harn Boulevard in southeast Clearwater for just over $5.7 million.

The proposed center will consist of 22,000-square-feet and will include a lobby, office, fitness room, gymnasium, storage area, restrooms and a number of multipurpose rooms.

City leaders originally looked at the reconstruction of a recreation center at Morningside as early as 1997, when $3.1 million was allocated to the Pennies for Pinellas II project list. However, construction costs rose significantly, and in 2008, city leaders approved the removal of the building that had served as a recreation center.

Dunbar said he expected annual operating costs coming in at $600,000. Annual revenue generated from the facility, according to Dunbar, is expected to be $225,000, with an annual subsidy from the city at a cost of $375,000.

Additional funding for the project will include General Fund reserves in the amount of $815,000.
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